Millions of grandparents have been torn from their grandkids. Others are responsible for raising them, and worry about who’ll finish the job if they can’t.
Here are a few stories I’ve collected from this site’s readers and from around the web about what it’s like to be a grandparent today. If you’d like to share your story, please write to me here.
- Debbie Cameron of Chandler, Arizona used to care for her grandkids after school, but now, she sees them only on screens and through windows. It’s been hard, she tells the Associated Press. “I just go day by day, and when the dark thoughts come in I try and do something to take them away,” she says. “I cry. Sometimes I cry.”
Alexandra Peters, a Grandparent Effect reader in Sharon, Connecticut, gathers daily with her three sets of grandkids for a Zoom chat. The kids range from ages one to nine and are scattered around the country. “We sing songs; we do basic crafts; we talk about what’s going on in our lives,” she writes. “Today I am showing them the geese on my lawn and asking them to look out for geese in the next couple of days. I tried to show them a stomping video, but it didn’t really work. A lot of things don’t work! That’s okay. We are learning every day about how to do this … It’s kind of miraculous for all of us to be together.”
- Journalist Kevin Manahan of New Jersey mourns the time he’s losing with his grandson, Ben, who just turned one. “I wasn’t the best father [to my sons],” he writes in a recent column. “I was a sports reporter who traveled a lot, and their early years are a blur. It wasn’t a ‘Cats in the Cradle’ neglect, but my job robbed me of precious time … I had hoped I could get a do-over with Ben. [But] I missed the first cake, and I’ll miss the first steps, which will come any day now. It’s likely to be a long time before I feel him squeeze my finger, or grab my face during peek-a-boo, or watch him turn the page with giddy anticipation as I read A Fly Went By like I’m Joe Buck. FaceTime doesn’t replace face time.”
- “If something happens to us, what happens to our children?” asks Cassandra Gentry, who’s raising two grandkids, ages 9 and 14, and lives in an apartment complex for “grandfamilies” in Washington, D.C. She was recently profiled in The Washington Post.
- “Our daughter and her family live in Michigan,” writes Richard Frey, a Grandparent Effect reader in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. “She has always wished for piano lessons for their son. He is 9 now. My wife and I are both musicians, and my wife came up with the brilliant idea of our teaching him during the pandemic using Facebook Messenger video. We’ve been doing that every day for three weeks, and it has worked out great! He and we both have the lesson books, and we can see and hear him play. It is definitely the next best thing to being there! After the lesson, we spend time ‘visiting’ with the rest of the family.”
- “I live eight hours from my only granddaughter, and was days from a reunion weekend with her in March when I realized that I could not, in good conscience, make the trip,” writes Joyce Kessler, a Grandparent Effect reader in Cleveland. “Thanks to FaceTime and my recently concluded career as an English teacher, however, I had the right training and tech to become her English Language Arts instructor at ‘Covid-19 Home School.’ I now see her every week to discuss the book we’re reading together (By the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder) and to act as editor (and fan) for the book that she is writing about a family of cats. Our weekly lesson also helps to keep her busy parents hard at work in their home offices. A little half-pint of sunshine in the mix really helps these days.”